Bhaktin and Language’s Tyranny

Bhaktin wrote that “only polyglossia fully frees consciousness from the tyranny of its own language and its own myth of language.” 

But does consciousness have a language? Are all thoughts, experiences, perceptions, emotions encoded in language? 

Some say that language pre-determines the ways in which we perceive the world. The ways that language encodes time and provides conscious and unconscious ways of categorizing experience and knowledge, according to that hypothesis, shapes our lives and our cultures. Following that idea, polyglossia would grants us access to multiple systems of encoded experience, thought, and perception; we need to refer to some examples to see if the hypothesis works. 

If English does not distinguish a completed past activity from an ongoing past activity (the difference between preterite and imperfect tenses in languages like Spanish and Portuguese) does it mean that monolingual English speakers do not value that distinction? Does it mean that monolingual English speakers do not comprehend the difference between an ongoing past action and a completed past activity? Does it mean that monolingual (if this ever existed I am not sure) English-speaking cultures are forward-thinking, future-oriented, uninterested in categorizing the past into different spheres of influence? Are these alleged monolingual cultures insensitive to the transformative roles of history?

It seems dubious to jump to these conclusions.

Jacob Dyer-Spiegel @  (2008)

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